Free Range on Food: Things we love, using aquafaba in cocktails and more.

Feb 08, 2017

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you're enjoying this week's food stuff -- including our Things We Love (cooking with chefs, low-alcohol beers, gummy candies, mushrooms, a special cookbook, a two-in-one utensil, a meat thermometer, an easy yogurt sauce, a trivet) and our chocolate-heavy Valentine's Day columns, including Dorie's chocolate tarts, Ellie's chocolate bark, my own vegan truffles, and Carrie's exploration of aquafaba (bean-cooking liquid) in cocktails -- really!.

What things do YOU love? Please let us know.

We'll have a Valentine's-oriented giveaway books for today's favorite chatter: Its identity will remain a secret until the end of the chat. We're keeping you guessing!

Don't forget that today is one of those two-in-one chat days: Dorie Greenspan has her chat right after ours, so you can just keep right on talking. Go here to ask a question early, and then head back after you talk to us.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR2692. Remember, you'll record and enter it into the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

OK, let's do this!

We are in the market for a new electric range. I have actually never bought one before and wonder what features should I be looking for? I cook at home almost every night, using both the stove and the oven, but I am not a baker. Thanks!

Convection is a nice feature to have. And I'm pretty fond of the flat-top surface -- no burners to take out and clean (do they even make many of those anymore?). Also, after 6 years with a double oven -- one smaller and one larger -- I can't imagine living without it. It's really handy if you're doing multiple things at once.

May I make a plug for induction? It's super-efficient, doesn't add any ambient heat to the room, is *more* responsive than gas, and can use many more pots and pans than you might think -- anything magnetic.

I'm intrigued by the Soupergirl Cleanse, but the cost of $135 for five days of meals seems really high, especially for those of us who would still have to do regular grocery shopping and cooking for family members not doing the cleanse. Did you feel like it was a reasonable value for what you got?

I understand. I think there's a special going on so that it's less than that. Plus, 4 soups a day was more than I could eat, so I think it'd be fair to say that's the price of meals for at least another day or so. 


For the first two weeks when I was doing only her soups, the cost was worth it for me -- easy to take to work and quick to reheat at home. So part of that cost I chalk up to convenience. If you were going to do a cleanse and have other people to cook for, why not work soups into the family meal rotation? And you could supplement with a few store-bought Soupergirl or other healthful packaged soups from the store. Just a thought....


ARTICLE 5 Diets, the take-aways

I hope it's not too late to memorialize Mary Tyler Moore here for her contribution to our collective food and hosting memories. I'm referring to the 1973 episode The Dinner Party, where Lou Grant helps himself to two chops from the Veal Prince Orloff serving platter, unaware that Mary only has one chop for each guest -- until she tells him. That was 44 years ago and I still laugh thinking about it. (Props, too, to the writer, Ed. Weinberger.)

I have watched a dozen MTM episodes since her death, which hit me like a ton of bricks. I've loved her since I persuaded my parents to let me slide my denim bean bag chair (seriously) down from my upstairs bedroom and plop it in front of the downstairs TV to watch her show -- and "Rhoda," "The Bob Newhart Show," and "The Carol Burnett Show." I wrote her a fan letter when I was in third grade, and treasured the signed autographs and lots of other stuff her people sent me in response.

A few years ago, I was in a cooking group, and when we had a Julia Child theme, the host made Veal Prince Orloff, which was from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." One of us had to play the MTM episode: 

Sue Ann: Mary, dear, do you have any idea what happens if you let Veal Prince Orloff sit in an oven too long? 

Mary: No, what? 

Sue Ann: He dies!


Do all spatulas become rigid over time? Can I make mine pliant (bendy) again or should I buy new ones?

Not sure what type of spatula you have, but if it's getting brittle, I think that's probably it. Splurge for a new one. Might I suggest the iSi spoon spatula, the subject of my Valentine in today's section? Never gets dry, at least in the years I've owned them.

spoon spatula

ARTICLE: The two-in-one kitchen tool that has found its way into my kitchen — three times

I made the warm spinach and artichoke dip from the food section and it was less than popular. I still have more than two cups left. What seasonings can I add to give it some flavor?

Bummer. "Less than popular" because the dip was bland? Start with more salt, or try some lemon juice.

Surely this is nothing that a dose of Sriracha or Tabasco couldn't fix?

I made two batches of banana bread two days apart. Same bags of flour and sugar, same box of butter, same carton of eggs, same oven temp. It's possible the bananas weren't exactly at the same degree of ripeness but I think they were -- also the same size. The first batch turned out delicious and the second batch not so much. The only obvious difference I can think of is that for the first batch, I used butter straight from the refrigerator and had to cut it into tiny pieces in order to cream it with the sugar (the old-fashioned way, without a stand mixer). For the second batch, I let the butter soften outside the refrigerator before creaming it with the sugar. Could the softened butter have made a noticeable, negative difference?

Interesting! On the contrary, I would actually have expected the one with softened butter to turn out better. The softened butter makes it easier to cream and aerate. So, like you, I'm a bit stumped.

What was "not so much" delicious about the second batch? Just not as much banana flavor? Or something else?

I have some frozen lobster tails which I would like to use for a valentine's day dinner. I don't want to go the drawn butter route. Thinking of something with pasta. Any suggestions for a romantic lobster tail dinner?

So far you're my favorite chatter o' the day -- because you reminded me about that soup! 

Coconut Milk Soup With Lobster

Scrambled Eggs With Lobster and Brioche (not just for breakfast)

Lobster Tails With Garlic and Oil (better than the butter route)

I got a new cook book (Plenty) that calls for saffron in a number of dishes. I'd rather not splurge and use that spice every night, but is there a rule of thumb with recipes when it's ok to substitute for saffron and when it's not and saffron is really necessary? Also, I know I can't replicate the flavor, but what spices could I substitute for saffron that would still create a tasty dish? Thanks!

Hmm, as you note there's really nothing that tastes like saffron, so no substitution for it, flavorwise, although some people use turmeric to imitate the color (like with rice). There is no real rule of thumb that I can think of -- it just depends on the recipe, how prominent the saffron is and whether that's central to the dish. The path forward involves experimentation! Look at the other spices used in "Plenty" for inspiration. 

For what it's worth, I find the saffron pretty reasonably priced at Trader Joe's: $5.99 per .02-ounce jar. I used it in a korma last week and the quality seemed spot-on. Really fragrant.

I received a jar of cantaloupe preserves/marmalade in a gift basket. Besides eating on toast, any ideas for how to use it? thanks!

We answered you last week! Here's a link to that.

If the bananas were bigger/smaller the second time that would affect the texture. Plus some bananas taste better than others to begin with. (Or, for us banana haters, less awful than others)

The chatter said they seemed to be the same size and ripeness, but sure, I guess one bunch could have been better than the other.

Not as much flavor, period. Which I guess is the same as not as much banana flavor.

Yeah, then I think it must've been your bananas and the flavor, which is absolutely connected to ripeness. For banana bread, you really want them to be so ripe the skin is black; they get sweeter and sweeter the riper they are. When I've got some bananas trending that way, rather than eat them up, I let them go REALLY far and pop them in the freezer. Those make the best banana bread.

In search of recipes; thinking along the lines of cocktails, baking, Persian food...?

We've got a couple of ideas to get you started.

Saffron-Flavored Steamed Rice With Golden Crust

RECIPE: Saffron-Flavored Steamed Rice With Golden Crust

Roasted Carrots and Fennel With Rose Petal Harissa

RECIPE: Roasted Carrots and Fennel With Rose Petal Harissa

Potingall Cakes (Portugal Cakes)

RECIPE: Potingall Cakes (Portugal Cakes)

If you need some, by the way, it's available at Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Indian markets, including Ginger and Spice in Alexandria, Lebanese Taverna in Arlington and Yekta in Rockville. And just remember, a little goes a long way.

Hi gang! Thanks for hosting this every week. This is probably a question for Carrie... I was in Charleston last weekend and has an amazing cocktail (the Witch Doctor) that included a super fun/tingly/numbing herb called the Szechuan "buzz" button. I was curious if you have heard of this or know where to find it in stores - I would love to play around with some tingly drinks.

Fun. Haven't seen them sold locally, but I think you can order the buttons online from Koppert Cress (spelled Sechuan there) and from MarxFoods.

ARTICLE Like a taste that tingles? Then this bud's for you.

VIDEO (of WaPo colleagues tasting the buttons; still fun to watch

Isn't that stuff bizarre? I had it in a cocktail in New Orleans last year and have been meaning to fiddle around with it, so thanks for the reminder. The lip feel was like Szechuan peppercorn X 6. 

but I don't have a garden, a balcony or even a west or south facing window, so I'm not growing my own.Buying fresh is too expensive for all the time. I have dried herbs. How do I substitute the dried for the fresh? I there a general ratio that works for all of them? A chart that I can look up for each kind? If a recipe calls for fresh should I add the dried to a wet ingredient and wait for a while so the moisture can rehydrate them a bit (would that release the flavor?). The stuff I have smells great. I have no reason not to use it. And it has been a substantial investment of money to have a good assortment. Any suggestions?

It's not quite the same, but the general rule of thumb is to use a third as much dried as fresh. I don't know about rehydrating -- not sure you'd get any appreciable benefit, but you can try and see how it works.

On a whim, I bought heart shaped pasta- I can't seem to decide to either fully embrace it and make it shine next week for a fully on VD day dinner; or drown it down with lots of vegetables and a heavy sauce. My So will certainly think is "cute," thoughts?

If you're going to cook cute, that's the day to do it, I say!  Before we offer suggestions, is the pasta red or pink? Stuffed with anything? 

I think I need to start a Pico Balla fan club. They have two textures, a nice fruity flavor and pretty colors. And, you can buy large quantities of them on Amazon. I love candy and enjoyed reading about Maura's food vice. When I was in Amsterdam in 2002 I went in a store called Jamin. It was a pick-a-mix place of all licorice. Bin after bin of every kind of licorice imaginable. I lost my mind and ended up walking out with three kilos of candy in my backpack. Good times.

I will start this club with you! 

The best thing about writing this story is that I have gotten some suggestions for candy brands I had never even heard of -- like Sockerbit in Sweden, and Squish in Canada. I will add Jamin to that list. 

An even BETTER thing about writing this story would be if some Haribo executive were to read it and decide to make me an official taste-tester. Please? 

THINGS WE LOVE: I have a food vice, and it's yummy and gummy

It was very entertaining to read about what everyone loves. I love my 54 year old 10 inch cast iron skillet my deceased mother gave me for a wedding present. The skillet has stood the test of time while my marriage did not. I still use the seasoned skillet to sear scallops, bake corn bread, and fry fish. I will pass the skillet on to my daughter when I'm no longer around. I have plans to prepare the crunchy salad with curry lime vinaigrette recipe featured today. Can I assemble the chopped vegetables the day before n separate zip-top bags and mix everything the next day before my guests arrive?

Yes! I think several of us could have waxed romantic about our trusty cast-iron skillets. The thought of passing it on is lovely. 

Re the Crunchy Salad With Curry Lime Vinaigrette: That's just how our tester did it -- you probably wouldn't even need to use separate bags.

what other locations can I buy from NorthCove Mushrooms? and do they have a website and Etsy shop?

You can find their other market locations on their website -- as well as a link to their Etsy shop.

Where is a good place in Washington to try a mix of the low-alcohol beers mentioned in today's story?

The short answer is that there really isn't one good place to try session beers -- as I pointed out in the story, the trend is for high-ABV stouts and IPAs, not low-ABV beers, and bars stock what they think will sell. Outside of tart and funky ales, I counted exactly 5 beers under 5% on ChurchKey's famously long menu, for example. Jack Rose has a selection, but they're mostly better-known staples (Allagash White, Brooklyn Pilsner).

If you're looking to do a tasting and comparison, your best bet is to do it at home. Total Wine has a large selection that lets you mix-and-match with single bottles, so you don't have to gamble on a six-pack of something you've never tried, and Craft Beer Cellar on H St. NE has a great variety. That's where I've picked up cans of SingleCut's Jim is Working Hard, a 4.6% ABV IPA with lots of piney hop character; Oliver's Ridin' Easy Hoppy Blonde, from Baltimore; and Port City's Ways and Means, an unusual rye session ale with a spicy grain character that really grows on you. 

Session Beers

THINGS WE LOVE: I’d rather drink beer longer, not get drunk faster

Recently made the Sara Moulton Pasta & Meatballs recipe that recently appeared in the Sunday magazine - huge home run with my tasters. You know it's good when sometimes picky eaters ask for seconds, then tell you "It's a keeper." And it is - encourage all chatters to try it - it's easy and good. Thank you, and please keep 'em coming.

We are thrilled to have Sara on our team! And we really appreciate the feedback.

RECIPE Sesame Noodles and Asian Meatballs


I'm in the market to purchase my own rolling pin, after a messy attempt with a wine bottle. There are so many options on the market, non-stick, wooden, plastic, french, with bands... How does one choose an all-inclusive. Would like to make pie crusts to cookies.

I have a nonstick one with handles which I'm kind of meh on. The one I love and reach for the most is this no-frills maple pin from J.K. Adams. And at a great price, too -- $15.

Unmotivated due to a cold, but trying to come up with ideas for a nice V-Day dinner. I eat seafood but no meat and husband eats anything. Am in search of something not overly complicated since it is a work day and we'd like to eat at a reasonable hour. Would love to make a main, side and dessert. A tall order, I know- inspiration just isn't coming this year.

Whenever somebody wants seafood that's not overly complicated, I always think of Domenica Marchetti's amazing Overnight-Marinated Swordfish Stew. I don't eat fish anymore, but I still serve this from time to time to guests I know will love it. Bonus: You can use tuna instead if it's easier to find or looks better. This recipe seems perfect for you, because you can prep it the day before or morning of, leave it in the fridge overnight and/or all day, and then take it out as soon as you get home and pop it on the stove. It's supposed to come to room temperature for an hour before you start cooking it, but I bet you could skip that step, since the cooking is so gentle; it just might take a little longer. You can serve it with some nice crusty bread, a simple crisp salad on the side (something like Ellie's basic one, below, that you make while the stew is cooking) and then, yes, dessert. For the latter, maybe Dorie's chocolate tartlets! You could make those the night before and keep in the fridge.

RECIPE: Overnight-Marinated Swordfish Stew

RECIPE: Green Salad With Pears, Pecans and Blue Cheese

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Creamy Chocolate Tartlets


I really enjoyed the essays on what you love this morning. What a great idea for a Valentine's Day issue! I read the chefs, thermometer, spatula-spoon, and low-alcohol beer ones this morning and hope to read the rest when I get home tonight. I liked how these stories were both personal and shared some great practical tips. I'm definitely going to pick up a silicon spatula-spoon next time I'm at a kitchen shop, and I'm curious if Bonnie has any other great chef tips to share. Thanks.

Plenty! But here are a recent couple:


You know how we're told not "wash" mushrooms, because they'll get all soggy? Chefs do it all the time. They shock them in an ice-water bath (same principle as the leeks thing I mentioned in my essay; the dirt falls to the bottom). Just make sure to let them dry thoroughly, as in, overnight, uncovered, in the refrigerator.



If you use onions to make a broth or stock that you may then further reduce -- say, for a sauce or something -- cut them in half and char till they are really blackened. This coaxes out/caramelizes the onions' natural sugars and adds depth to the flavor of the broth. Also, it eliminates the bitterness that can happen sometimes in those reductions.

1. Kuhn Rikon Kochblume Spill Stopper. How did I ever live without it? I use it practically every day to keep pots from boiling over. It seems expensive at nearly $30, but if you frequently cook soups and pastas, it is so worth it. 2. Apple Wedger Corer. Thanks to this inexpensive gadget, my healthful winter snacks have expanded beyond clementines to include apple wedges. I love apples, but don't like eating WHOLE apples --- I get apple skin stuck between my teeth and apple juice always spurts onto my clothes from the first bite. I know you can buy bags of pre-sliced apples, but just-in-time slices are tastier, prettier, and fresher and don't suffer from nutrient degradation. There are 4 things to know about using an apple slicer-wedger. (1) Get an all-steel one. The ones with plastic parts always break, either from the stress of cutting into apples or from being dropped on the floor. (2) Get one that cuts 10 wedges. Most of them cut 8 wedges, which are too big and not that different from eating a whole apple. (3) Buy smaller apples. Many grocery store apple varieties have a bigger diameter than the wedger slicer. Plus, smaller apples tend to be more flavorful. I am now eating Galas, which are delicious. (4) For an apple with a core that is not perfectly centered, press the wedger-slicer down so that it is aligned with the core.

Thanks! That spill stopper looks pretty cool! (And I see it for $20, even less some places, FYI.)

Could you add eggs and cheese and bake it into a kind of quiche?

Yep. Great idea.

I don't drink much, but when I do I like a fruity cocktail like a sidecar, whisky sour, or daiquiri. Once in a blue moon I get the urge to make myself something at home, but I'm always stymied because I don't have the proper ingredients on hand. What are your suggestions for some delicious, easy drinks I can assemble when the urge strikes? What can I keep in my pantry that won't go bad during the long periods between drinks?

For a fruity drink lover, this is a tricky one. You're fine holding all the spirit bases in the drinks you mention forever, but the sour component really requires actual fruit. I kind of have this issue too, in that whenever I decide I want a particular drink, the thing I'm most likely to be out of is not a spirit or liqueur, but citrus. Which really has to be fresh. I suppose you could freeze some fresh lemon/lime juice and hold it for later, but it's really not ideal -- that's the one thing I'd say you should just aim to stop and pick up before heading home to make a drink. There are some lovely fruit liqueurs, of course, that last much longer, but they won't give you that really bright fresh note that all of the drinks you mention have. So -- keep your bases and a few liqueurs on hand, and try to plan ahead just enough to remember the limes? :)

I will be having one rushed morning a week when I would love to have something I can grab for breakfast that will take little time, eating it on the go if necessary. I think I have seen recipes from the Post that could be prepared ahead, maybe in muffin cups or something, and frozen to microwave when needed, but can't figure out what to search in the recipe finder to get there. Just muffins would work ok, and I have plenty of those, but I'm hoping for something more substantial that won't leave me hungry by lunch.

Maggie Austin's Brunch Cups have all those savory breakfast components you love.

The turkey sausage patties for these healthful breakfast sandwiches can be frozen for up to a month.

These energy bars are truly grab-and-go.

These Whole-Wheat Banana Chapatis are something a little different, and somewhat addictive!

Any book of Persian or Middle Eastern food will include desserts that incorporate rosewater. And you can find it at Shoppers Food Warehouse on Nicholson Lane off Rockville Pike. Lots of unexpected exotic ingredients there. Remember that the stuff goes bad fairly quickly once the bottle is opened.

Thanks for the tips.

Its not filled, it's about the same size as orecchiette (I compared), and it's a mixture of red and pinkish color.

I think I'd keep it simple so they'll stand out...maybe in a creamy sauce from the late and wonderful Michel Richard.

Help!!! You had a recipe for chicken thighs seasoned with cumin and then chicken broth and tomatillas were added until chicken was done. Then shredded and served with avocados and chipotle mayo. Just got all the stuff but can't find the recipe. Tried looking for it online but don't know name and can't find it. Can you tell me its name and where to look. I think it was fairly recent??? BTW, I LOVE every column in the food section and live for it each Wednesday. Thanks, Nancy

Here you go! (BTW, you have the power: Go to, and type in chicken thighs and tomatillos, and you get this baby!

RECIPE: Braised Chicken Thighs With Tomatillos

Does low alcohol beer translate to less calories?

That's the general rule, as alcohol has about 7 calories per gram. However, lighter craft beers, like Green Flash's Jibe or Firestone Walter's Easy Jack, are never going to be a substitute for low-calorie light beers like MGD64 or Michelob Ultra. 

Joe, Thanks for your tweet about Francis and his new gig - was wondering after reading his Sunday column and recipe in "that other paper." Question for all - can you recommend any good foodish radio shows/podcasts, other than Splendid Table?

ARTICLE: ‘The Splendid Table’ radio show announces a new host: Francis Lam

I like Ed Levine's Special Sauce podcast from Serious Eats, especially when columnists Kenji Lopez-Alt and Stella Parks show up.

I like the Sporkful -- its recent series on race was amazing.

First We Eat, from Eva Kosmas Flores and Carey Nershi.

I recently held a brunch party and bought Costco sized pancake mix thinking people love pancakes, right? Well, not so much. All the other foods got demolished and the sad lukewarm pancakes sat there untouched. Now I have a lot of leftover pancake mix and no idea what to do with it! I'm not a pancake person myself but I like to get creative in the kitchen. I know it has self-leavening ingredients so I'm sure I can bake up some cakes, muffins and cookies with it. Any ideas?

Had to Google it for this one. Via Pinterest, looks like you can make choco chip cookies, muffins, scones; waffles; fritters; an omelet (!); soup (!!);  use it as a coating for fried chicken and fried bananas

I had a package of maitake mushrooms and couldn't decide what to do with them. I was afraid I was going to lose them. Last night I made your Mushroom Popover Pie and used them in that along with a few baby bellas. It seemed like an extravagance but man, it was so worth it. We love this recipe anyway but last night's version was over the top great. Thank you!

What a great splurge! I love maitakes, and this popover pie is swell, so can't imagine why it wouldn't be spectacular. Thanks for letting me know!

I really enjoyed Carrie's column today on using aquafaba as a substitute for egg white in cocktails. Raw eggs make me squeamish. Salmonella happens, unfortunately, and I don't want to take the chance. As usual for her, it was humorous and thoughtful. I'd love to try this--her recipe sounds great, and I'd also like to do a pisco sour this way. My question is, if I open a can of chickpeas, but I'm not using the aquafaba (or all of it) right away, what's the best way to store it? Also, if I open a can of chickpeas for the aquafaba, but don't have an immediate use for the chickpeas, what's the best way to store them?

Thanks -- so glad you enjoyed it! I was surprised how well the aquafaba worked. I wouldn't use it in every egg-white cocktail, but it's definitely a great option for some of them. One of the food folks might have more input on storing, but I think just storing the beans and juice in a plastic-wrapped bowl in the fridge is probably fine. 

SPIRITS: How to make frothy cocktails without egg: Use chickpea water

Yeah, the beans can store in their liquid for a week, or you can freeze them. Just transfer them to another container, out of that can.

For NYE, I poached lobster tails to serve with pasta. I made a no-cook bearnaise (you melt the butter and slowly pour it into the vinegar/tarragon/shallot/egg mixture). Mixed it with the lobster tails and pasta. Divine.


I've got a pound of ground turkey to make into dinner tonight. I can't face another turkey tomato sauce with pasta. Any other ideas? Curry? Anything?

Cathy Barrow's Ancho-Leek Turkey Meatballs will wake you right up. 

Asian Turkey Burgers have a sweetness to them.

Turkey and Cranberry Meatloaf. Seriously.

An Italian friend brought me a large quantity of individually wrapped hard candies. It's something I don't eat. The cellophane wrapping is red, so I was thinking of taking them to a Valentine's party. Before I give them away, I need to know, do they go bad after some period of time? They've been sitting in a closed jar for several years ... I just found them while going through the pantry.

Can you try a bite of one just to see how it seems/tastes?  Hard candy, which has a lot of sugar, generally can last 2-3 years if individually wrapped, since sugar is a preservative, but ... are you sure you want to take a risk and pass out several-year-old candy at a party?  In general, that seems like a bad idea, in terms of social relations if nothing else.

Becky is right. Those nonstick pins are worthless, and the handles don't help anything.


I'm sorry to hear about the death in Tim Carman's family. However, the story about the thermometer was very helpful and explained why I get the readings I do on the stick thermometer. I'm ready to buy a Holder. As for what I love in the kitchen--all of the Corning Ware and Corelle dishes (more than 40 years old and still looking new) I use daily. I wish lids lasted as long as the cookware does.

ARTICLE: The one device that gives me confidence when cooking meat

A reader after my own heart. Last year I wrote about my beloved Corningware, which belonged to my grandmother and was given to me by my mom.

ARTICLE: The vintage casserole dish that keeps on cooking, just like Grandma did

Thank you for the informative article on using aquafaba in cocktails. As a mostly vegan eater, I'm always looking for substitutes for animal-sourced ingredients. Although I use aquafaba for baking, it never occurred to me to use it in alcoholic beverages. Now, I just wish aquafaba were sold commercially. We eat a lot of garbanzos, but I almost always unthinkingly drain the water right before I remember that I need to save it. Maybe I should post a sign on the front of the sink: SAVE BEAN JUICE! Speaking of vegan drinks, I was relieved to learn that Campari stopped using cochineal beetles as its coloring source. I had been planning to give up Campari but, for some reason, for the last 3 months or so, my nightly glass of orange juice and Campari has become essential to destressing. The amount of Campari I put in the OJ varies. It used to be just a blush of red, but lately, my evening drink has been getting redder and redder.

I betcha someone's going to start selling the stuff sans beans sooner or later, if it keeps trending. Yes, Campari is now safe for vegetarians. A couple of the new Campari-esque liqueurs on the market (Leopold's Aperitivo and St. George's Bruto Americano) aren't, though, so be aware. I've heard that Campari used to taste different when it was beetle-enhanced, but I don't think I've ever had it from that time. 

...are never going to be as good or tender as fresh, so those are asking to be chopped up as an ingredient in something. Like maybe mixed with some jumbo lump crab and tossed into spaghetti with olive oil, butter, herbs, parmesan, fresh ground pepper, and some salt, or make lobster rolls with fries (hey, that's romantic enough for me). often do you, or anyone, get to enjoy never-been-frozen lobster tails? I'd like that pasta dish, sounds like! 

I was so happy to see the article on North Cove mushrooms. I have been buying from them for years and love their mushrooms. They make many other mushroom products - salad dressing, pasta, broth, tincture, teas, etc. I have tried all and they are all excellent. I am a fan of roasted mushrooms.

Yep, their stuff is great.

These Rubbermaid containers are great. They may not claim to be bug proof, but the lids fit so tightly I haven't had a problem with these despite a couple of cupboard moth infestations: The large holds somewhat more than 5 lbs. of flour, another easily holds 4 lbs. of sugar, another 2 lbs. of whole wheat flour. These are useful, a good fit in the cupboard, and relatively inexpensive.

Yay! I got my replacement blade in the mail Monday, after having filled out the form before Christmas. On another note, however, I have a Cuisinart mini-chopper that lost of bit of its plastic blade core when I used it last month. Fortunately, I found the pieces before somebody ate them. I went to the website to notify Cuisinart, but so far, no response, not even a robotic "thank you for your comment."

Good for you. As far as I can tell, this process has been a bit of a mess. I just got an email saying my replacement blade would be shipped between Feb. 6 and Feb. 20... except I got mine more than a month ago.

I finally gave in and got one of those hard boiled egg timers where you put a red plastic egg in the pot and when the purple color get to the center, it is hard boiled. I finally have stopped the dreaded green rings around my yolks. I tried the other methods. They don't work for me. An instruction like "cover eggs plus one inch of water" is confusing. How densely packed are your eggs in that pot? Doesn't that impact how much heat you are adding to the eggs when you heat the water to boiling? This way, I'm done when the little red/purple egg says I'm done. Oh, and it was $5. Or less. BB&B discount coupon.

We are on #Team Steaming here at WaPo Food. I will never again place eggs for hard-cooking in water.

VIDEO  How to steam eggs to hard-cooked perfection

I happen to have a lot of dried lentils around. Any interesting recipe ideas?

One things I wish I'd thought to consider is looking at where the buttons are positioned. I use my timer a lot - it's positioned between two buttons, not at the end. I had to 'learn' where it was ... after accidentally pushing 'oven self clean' a couple of times ... . Definitely get one with two proper ovens if you can.

Good points.

Is there some reason that a foam topping is considered essential to some cocktails? Because the thought of eating/drinking raw egg white, or fake egg white, has always revolted me. To me, that topping is something to scrape off, not replicate with canned bean liquid. Do people really like that foam?

When you shake an egg white into a drink, it does change the texture a bit -- makes it kind of silkier, if that makes sense. It's not a huge contributor to the flavor (egg white, that is -- drinks that involve a whole egg are a different thing). So to me, it's an overall texture thing, and then what you also get from the formation of that foam is a place to drop bitters/tinctures. On the face of it, it's just cool decoration, but I think it serves another purpose, too: Rather than those droplets of bitters, which tend to be highly aromatic, getting subsumed in the drink, they stay atop that layer of foam and hit your nose more. If you ever get over the eggy-skeeves (which I sympathize with!), try this out: A few drops of Angostura on the top the foam conveys a nice whiff of baking spices when you raise the glass to drink.


Oh, I will add: If you manage the proportions right, you can get a similar silky texture using gomme syrup. It's a sweetener as well, though, so obviously not a 1:1 substitute for an egg white!

Moths may not get into them, but "drugstore beetles" or "cigarette beetles" do, I am sorry to have to report. They (little weevil-looking things) seem to get into our house via legumes from Indian groceries, and the damned things eat through Tupperware in perfectly circular holes. Just a PSA. All my grains and legumes go into glass jars now, or the freezer.

How softened was the softened butter? I'm an avid baker and after years of struggling with cupcakes that would sink or had a less than ideal texture and batter that would get almost curdled, I realized that I was letting my butter become too soft (it was not melty at all, just too soft). Now I cut it in chunks and let it sit out for 30 mins and my baked goods have improved considerably. You want it to be just soft enough to have a little give when you press it but not totally give way. I find banana bread to be pretty forgiving though, so not sure if that's the case here.

I think we settled on the idea that it was the bananas (which I suspect weren't ripe enough), cause it was banana flavor that was missing in the second batch.

I love this chat and I love the food section. I love it so much, I would like to give a gift subscription to a friend who lives very much outside the delivery area. But I only want to subscribe her to the Food section, or only to the Wednesday paper (more than that would not be welcome in her paper-filled home). A Food section-only or Wednesday-only subscription is not an option at this time. Is there some way we -- meaning you! -- can make this happen? Pretty-please? I bet you would get a LOT of subscriptions all across the US!

Aw, shucks -- thanks for the nice words!

The digital subscription just doesn't work that way -- and I don't know how the PTB could, really, even if they wanted to. Would it just deny access on the other days? 

Just spring for a regular digital subscription! We would really appreciate it. Or, since you are a subscriber (yes?), you get a digital subscription, and I think you can share it with somebody, can't you?

My husband and I had a fantastic holiday in Morocco. I spent a small fortune on saffron - I bought 10g - for us and also to give as gifts. Best giftie ever.

What a nice idea -- and nice friends you are.

Loved your column today, and I can't wait to serve a drink to guest, which I intend to describe as "made with the leftover stuff from a can of chickpeas." Seriously, that was quite interesting, though to my unsophisticated brain, aquafaba sounds like a really good laundry detergent.

Ha! You're right -- "Gets Clothes Beany Bright!" Prepare for a Monty Python-esque "Run away!" montage from your guests. 

Hi there! The boyfriend is sick so going to make him some chicken noodle soup tonight. Any good recipes recommendations? Thank you!!

That's the way to go. This is an easy and especially aromatic one (starts with cooked chicken).

And this is one of my favorites -- Creamy Greek Noodle Soup (no cream!). Also easy to assemble, and it's quite soothing.

My $15 Escali kitchen scale. Yeah yeah, it allows you to be more accurate when measuring, but more than that I don't have to get measuring cups dirty! Major win in my book. It also makes dividing and adjusting recipes and making sure portions are even so much easier. I'm on a mission to convince my friends that it isn't some pretentious, fancy gadget that'll only get used if they bake a lot.

Yes, yes, yes. I've been using one for years to get consistently just right soft and hard boiled eggs. They do wear out, so buy two and get the original which used to be called The Burton Eggtimer and used to be made in USA (no longer now that they have legal competition).

Last week, someone said they gave up coffee because of caffeine. Chances are, the stomach problems *I* was having are similar to what you have. So yes, I gave up coffee for a while. I drink green tea and chai tea, and am fine. After my colonoscopy I could drink coffee again for a while. But, pains came back. Two things helped: I have been diagnosed as lactose intolerant so I took dairy out of my diet, and that helps with *everything*. *and* when I order coffee out -- I only order a drink that uses espresso (which means, for me, basically, getting an americano as dairy and sugar are out). Just some thoughts and things that have helped. But I rarely drink coffee these days, when I used to drink it much more, as teas have so many benefits and I have dabbled more into learning about them.

when I mash bananas, I mash them with about a quarter cup of strong hot coffee. it really makes the bread taste good.

Love this!

I enjoyed Dave McIntyre's column today on rose wines. Now that I'm doing a Weight Loss Challenge, I'm choosing wine over beer, although I'm trying to drink less overall. Still, the column got me wondering: Does rose have significantly less or more calories than red or white wines? I don't see how it could, but given that I have one or two roses in my wine rack, I figured this was worth asking. Maybe I should prioritize those for weight control reasons? Also: Do those of you who just completed your diet challenges advise no drinking during weight loss? I haven't found that necessary in the past, but each time I diet, I get different results.

Wine calories do vary from type to type, mostly depending on the alcohol level and the residual sweetness. In general, rose is considered a medium-alcohol wine, lower in alcohol (and therefore calories) than those big Zinfandel and Shiraz bombs at over 15% ABV, and certainly lower in calories than any dessert or fortified wines.

On whether you should stop drinking to lose weight, it certainly helps -- but only if that doesn't cause you to burn out on the diet!

I made a lasagna last week and I have bunch of no-boil sheets left over. What can I do with them? We're going to get a lot of snow where I live tomorrow, so I'd have time during the day to put something together. Maybe a roll-up of sorts? Should I soak the sheets in water until their pliable, or do they need to be precooked in boiling water?

Rollups sound groovy. ATK recommends soaking them in hot water for 10 mins.

Please give me your best recipes.... chatters too. Eggs are fine.

Some possibilities:

Double Chocolate Pudding

RECIPE: Double Chocolate Pudding

RECIPE: Real Chocolate Pudding

Soft-Centered Chocolate Pudding With Espresso

RECIPE: Soft-Centered Chocolate Pudding With Espresso

Pudding Pops

RECIPE: Pudding Pops (just eat as pudding, no need to freeze -- although they're really good pops)

I used this recipe. No stove - less risk of ending up with scrambled eggs. I was amazed at how good it was.

Ah, microwaving for the butter. I was wondering. It does look easy enough! 

Can't you use it as topping for pot pie and the suchlike?

Dumplings, kinda? Sure.

Costco has saffron imported from Spain. at about 15.99. Very good quality.

I lived in Thailand for several years, and one of my favorite dishes was larb gai (PRO: lob guy), a salad of ground chicken, chilies, and shallots et. al. It's even better when you use ground turkey (esp. dark meat). And it's pretty easy to make. Lots of versions online and in cookbooks.

Yes! And this is the best recipe, from chef Nongkran Daks. 

Got an e-mail apologizing for how long it's taking. Smart move - I don't mind that much as long as I know I'm not lost in the shuffle.

Yes, that's something.

I am pretty confident in winging it on the turkey, veg, mushroom mix, and I have phyllo or biscuit as options for the lids. But, how do I scale/estimate the amount of liquid so that I get a nice, stewy pot pie that is not runny but not gummy? Thanks.

The gravy rule goes: Figure roughly 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup of liquid.

Oh, I wasn't clear ... I want to subscribe her to hard-copy but only of the Food section or the Wednesday newspaper. As is, I save a bunch of Food sections for her and take them along when I go to visit, but it'd be so nice if they'd just show up at her door the same day they show up at mine! Six months' worth is kinda overwhelming, too. We are life-long best friends "of a certain age" and cooking is one of the things we have in common, as is a preference for hard copy over cyber (except for this chat!). I still hope you can make this happen!

I'm confused -- didn't you say she was outside our delivery area? Looks like you'll need to mail them to her! Afraid we won't be able to contract a single driver to get them that way, no! Fun idea, though. Maybe one day we'll be able to just shoot them over with drones.

Give me salty, crunchy and I'm your forever Valentine.

A Haribo candy tester is a great idea. You think big!

First, love you, love you, love you guys. Not sure what holiday this would fit with, but: We know what you love, but what do you hate (think I remember raisins?). Cooking gadgets that you have had, but could live without/ended up in the donate pile. Epic failures - or maybe ask for chatters to contribute - I'm sure they will all have input. What do I know?

My blade is also split. I called to see if I coud get in under the regular blade recall. Answer: No, they have not recalled those yet. Q.: Are you saying they will? A.: Perhaps, for now they are busy dealing with the regular size. My conclusion, hang in there if you can wait. I am sure you can order a new one through Customer service, no idea how much they cost. MJ

Gravy It is fabulous. It is produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, and it is anthropology, gastronomy, travelogue and social critique all rolled up into a luscious podcast.

Of course! Love this one. How could I forget? I'm a proud SFA member and everything!

My KitchenAid stand mixer. The bigger size with the bowl lift. It makes bread, pasta, cookies. I never begrudge it the counter space it requires, because it is in frequent use. Please don't tell it I've been lusting over the copper version.

Try heating the dried herbs in a little oil to ‘bloom’ like one does for spices. For example add them to the pan at the end of sautéing onions. Careful though they can burn easily.

Risotto - go all Gordon Ramsay on Masterchef, swearing and shouting while cooking de river. "Why aren't the lobster tails ready, the risotto is dying at the pass'. Then really make it a memorable Valentine's Day evening by turning into a romantic.

Another route is to make sure you put them in the hot fat before adding water so they bloom

Well, you've turned us just until we're wilted, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Carrie for helping with the a's. Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who first asked about lobster tails for V-Day dinner will get "Sweet & Simple: Dessert for Two" By Christina Lane. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get it your way.

And don't forget to head on over to Dorie's chat right now!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading -- and happy Valentine's Day!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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